Social Gaming Wins!

Social Gaming Wins! 

Competitive Gaming Loses 🙁

High Skill Level Variance is the Number One Reason Competitive Gaming is a Loser in an Out-of-Home Social Entertainment Venue.

In fact, most Competitive Gaming experiences are the polar opposite of Social Gaming. 


What is the difference between Low and High Skill Level Variance?

One of the first video fighting games was called Karate Champ. The game only had a few basic fighting moves to learn, which means it had a low skill level variance. Pretty much everyone could put three or four quarters in the game and learn how to play. In fact, with just a little practice you could play against another player who already knew how to play. You probably weren’t going to win, but you at least knew a few basic moves to strike your opponent and one or two to defend yourself. Even though other players were better, it didn’t feel like they were dramatically better. It actually felt like you had a chance to win – especially if you played a few more times.

Unfortunately, as fighting games grew in popularity, they became more and more complex. Games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat had a significantly higher skill level variance. In fact, with each new iteration the skill level variance grew larger and larger. 

A player had to spend rolls upon rolls of quarters (or tokens) to become a good Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat player. The skill level variance became extremely HIGH! 

The dramatic increase in the complexity of video games is one of the biggest reasons why in-home video games took off. After the initial purchase of a game, a player could spend HOURS upon HOURS playing and practicing with NO additional cost to play. Today’s players can play amazing online fighting and shooter games for a very low cost or even FREE!

Why is a high skill level variance bad – especially for a new type of out-of-home gaming experience? 

It’s pretty simple, the higher the skill level variance, the less likely a casual player will even give the game a try and the higher the cost to play, the less likely they are to play it. 

Axe Throwing has a pretty high skill level variance when it comes to step one, which is learning how to successfully throw and stick the axe. Until a player can stick the axe, they can’t really play. That’s why the best axe throwing venues have Axe-perts (i.e. staff members) who are skilled at onboarding and teaching new participants how to successfully throw and stick an axe.

If our guests do try to play a new Social Gaming experience and it has a high skill level variance, they are faced with a pretty painful learning curve – especially when there isn’t a staff member to teach them how to play. Even worse, they are likely to get beaten badly by even low level players who already know how to play. Doubly worse, they will get beaten by players in their own group who catch on quickly because they are experienced gamers. 

It’s important to note that our out-of-home social gaming venues are guaranteed to underperform if we provide our guests with gaming experiences that make them feel incompetent or even embarrassed due to their lack of ability to play our games.

If our guests leave our venues feeling incompetent or embarrassed, they will never come back. Even worse, they will tell all their friends, family, and coworkers about their negative experience.

The vast majority of our guests don’t want to waste their precious out-of-home time and money figuring out how to play a complex game. Their primary goal is to just have fun with their friends, families, coworkers, or groups.

This is why introducing Competitive Gaming experiences like eSports or other games that have a high skill variance are doomed to fail. These types of gaming experiences are not going to work long-term in an out-of-home entertainment venue. 

The biggest obstacle to eSports succeeding in an out-of-home entertainment venue is their ridiculously high skill level variance. All of the most popular eSports’ video games are played in the home or on a mobile device. The reality is that 99.9% of eSports’ success comes from the popularity of gamers playing these games in their home, which also means eSports is a direct competitor to our out-of-home Social Gaming venues.

It’s important to note that VR gaming has the same complexity issues that most video games have, including the additional complexity of using custom controllers and the necessity of wearing a VR headset. Unfortunately, these headsets hide a player’s face from being visible to their friends, family, and coworkers. Just as bad, the players can’t see or hear their friends, family, etc who are watching. When it comes to out-of-home entertainment, VR is literally the polar opposite of what we should be adding to our out-of-home Social Gaming venues. 

Home alone with nothing to do? 

That’s the perfect time to enter a fake VR world and play a game online with friends or total strangers. It’s not even a little embarrassing, because nobody can see you wearing your goofy looking goggles and waving your hands in the air casting spells in your bedroom or shooting at invisible foes in your basement.

If VR ever becomes an ongoing success, it will be because of in-home gaming and for the same reasons fighting, first person shooters, and racing games became a huge success. In the home is where players have the time to learn how to play these high skill level variance video games for a relatively cheap price or even free.

To summarize, eSports and VR are both 100% the wrong way to go when it comes to developing the most successful out-of-home Social Gaming venues.

What about Pickleball?

Even though pickleball is currently a hot topic, it still has a pretty high skill level variance and the target market is really more aligned with highly competitive players. 

Just one example of skill level variance in Pickleball is the ability for skilled players to put a topspin or backspin on the ball, which can cause a novice player to totally miss the ball (i.e. missed ball = embarrassment = negative effect on repeat play = lower future revenue). 

The problem with providing gaming experiences for competitive people is that they make up a small percentage of the total population. 

In addition, Pickleball takes up a lot of space and can only accommodate two to four players, plus the players can’t eat or drink while playing. Even worse, players break a sweat while playing. Sweating and socializing are NOT a winning combination.

These Pickleball issues are not going to lead to an enjoyable out-of-home Social Gaming experience for the vast majority of adults. I’m not saying Pickleball is going away, but it’s certainly not the best type of gaming experience for an out-of-home social venue. 

By the way, it’s important to note that most Owners and GMs are the competitive type of player mentioned above. When competitive people really like a particular gaming experience, especially ones that are highly competitive, it’s probably the wrong type of experience to add to a Social Gaming entertainment venue. We too often assume that most people will like what we like, but that’s just not true.

I’m also a pretty competitive person and to provide a personal example of a not so great business assumption/decision – I really liked playing our Cyber Sport attraction and so did a lot of other competitive people, but I assumed that everyone would like it too. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough people who liked playing a competitive, skill-based, team game to make it a success

Again, offering competitive gaming experiences, with a high skill level variance, is NOT a good fit for the majority of our guests. Most people just want to go out and have fun with their friends, family, and coworkers while eating and drinking in their own reserved spaces.

I know some of you (maybe a half a dozen) were wondering what happened to Jim’s periodic newsletters? Well, everyone in our company has been Krazy busy developing and tweaking our Axe Throwing Social Gaming experience, which now has the most accurate Automatic Scoring in the industry plus it covers a target area that is 3x bigger than the others. In addition, we are in various stages of developing several new Social Gaming concepts. Our next one is called Krazy DartsTM and it’s now ready for production.

Below are the primary reasons why I haven’t posted in a while: 

Number one – It takes a lot of time to write something worth reading.

Number two – The vast majority of my writing time is now focused on writing and rewriting the detailed guidelines that we are using to help guide us to create the best Social Gaming experiences for the best Owner Operators.

Number three – Nearly every part of our company is focused on creating the very best Social Gaming experiences. These experiences are ones with very low skill level variance, which is critical to developing the best out-of-home Social Gaming venues. 

At this point, we have fully embraced the idea that Social Gaming IS the 800 pound Gorilla. Most importantly, it’s the key to our out-of-home entertainment industry’s long-term success.

Number four – I finally understand that sharing too much is not in the best interest of our Owner Operator clients’ success or our own. Unfortunately, I think I shared too much again!

I will continue to send out intermittent newsletters with overviews of what we are working on, but the most critical nuts and bolts details will only be shared with Owner Operators who have purchased one or more of our Social Gaming experiences or LASERTRON laser tag attraction.

We are currently remodeling 6,500 square feet of space in our Rochester, NY entertainment venue – this remodel will be completed in August. In this space, we will have 5 different Social Gaming experiences, which will total 24 social gaming spaces. Each Social Gaming space can be reserved for up to 8 guests. 

These 24 social gaming spaces will be in addition to our existing 8 Axe Throwing lanes, which means we will have a total of 32 Social Gaming spaces with an hourly capacity of 250+ guests.

We currently have several new LASERTRON Social Gaming experiences being developed. These new Social Gaming experiences will be added and tested over the next 6 to 18 months. As we run out of space, the weakest Social Gaming experiences will be replaced with our newest ones. This cycle of creating and testing new Social Gaming experiences will continue perpetually. 

Our LASERTRON conferences will begin again in September, but only LASERTRON Owner Operators who own and operate one or more of our Social Gaming experiences or LASERTRON laser tag arena and game system will be able to attend.

Our new Krazy DartsTM Social Gaming experience will be on display at Bowl Expo (Booth 551)..

Important feedback, a family (dad, mom, daughter and son – ages 14 & 16 for the kids) were playing our new Krazy DartsTM game. The dad said the following to one of our staff members: 

“This is the most fun we have had playing a game together as a family. When more people find out about Krazy DartsTM, you are going to have to start replacing your axe throwing lanes with more Krazy DartsTM.”  

We won’t be replacing any of our Axe Throwing lanes in our Buffalo entertainment venue, but we will be adding at least 3 more Krazy DartsTM by mid September, which will bring our total number of Krazy DartsTM to 5. These additional 3 units will replace two lower revenue producing social gaming experiences (i.e. two billiards tables). 

Owner Operator Offer  (6 to 12-Month Exclusive)

Be one of the first 25 Owner Operators to purchase 4 units of our new Krazy DartsTM social gaming experience or combo it with our existing Axe Throwing experience with Automatic Scoring and you will receive a 6-month exclusive for your entertainment venue – just like the big guys get, but this offer is not for them – it’s for you, the Owner Operator! 

If you buy 8 units of our new Krazy DartsTM or combine it with our Axe Throwing experience for a total of 8 units, you will receive a 12-month exclusive radius. Details of our offers can be provided by our sales team. 

By the way, it’s important to note that we continue to improve our LASERTRON LED illuminated arenas as well as making ongoing software and hardware upgrades to our LASERTRON Game Equipment. Our turnkey LASERTRON arena and game system is by far the most advanced laser tag experience in the World! 

See our new, fully functional LASERTRON LT-X3 Phaser at the Bowl Expo (Booth 551).

Thanks for reading,

Jim Kessler

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